UNDER THE INFLUENCE: How Alcohol Affects our Communities

Imagine a drug that costs the Australian economy about $7.


6 billion every year in crime, health problems and lost productivity. A drug that kills between 3,000 and 4,000 of us annually. And a drug that governments across the country are now making much easier to get around the clock. The drug is alcohol – for many of us our drug of choice. But with more and more 24-hour licences being issued, there's increasing concern we may be making booze too readily available.

JENNY BROCKIE: Here is Amanda Collinge with this story, and a warning, some of the language in this story may offend.


REPORTER: Amanda Collinge

On a clear day Sydney's beachside suburb of Manly sparkles. But at night, the suburb's four large pubs take centre stage. Two have 24-hour licences, and on weekends things can turn ugly.

PETER MACDONALD, MAYOR OF MANLY: It's pretty unpleasant and pretty ugly between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 in the morning. People come down, there's a binge drinking culture.

Official figures now rate Manly as the second-worst suburb in Sydney for alcohol-fuelled crime. Local police have linked more than 1,000 incidents, including assaults and vandalism, to alcohol abuse last year.

PETER MACDONALD: We've got this concentration of large pubs, large numbers of patrons in a very small area, and that has concentrated the problems.

But there are plenty of patrons who love the late trading hours.

WOMAN: We love the Steyne, yeah. The Steyne is the best.

WOMAN 1: No-one wants to go home like at 3:00 or 2:00 and so it keeps everyone off the streets.

WOMAN 3: What I find if there's a certain cut-off point, like 2:00, that's when a lot of people are in their prime of really in the party mode, so if you kick everyone out at that time, then you'll find there's more fights in the street.

REPORTER: So you tend to stay quite late here?

WOMAN 2: Yes.

REPORTER: How late?

WOMAN 2: Well, they changed the closing time till 6am. We usually stay, like 4:00 in the morning maybe.

WOMAN 1: It actually gives people something to do and, yeah. If you're not here, everyone would be out having punch-ups and, yeah.

WOMAN 4: And loads of fun, everyone's so good here and it keeps everyone out of trouble and stuff.

The Steyne Hotel in Manly has long been linked to incidents of street crime and assault. With nine bars over three floors, the pub can take more than 2,000 patrons a night and has a 24-hour licence.

STEVE QUINLAN, LICENSEE, STEYNE HOTEL: It is an entertainment precinct. You know, if you go overseas to somewhere as beautiful as Manly, you wouldn't go there and find it closed at midnight. The UK want 24-hour trading. It spreads out how long you can get a drink.

REPORTER: So how late you will girls stay?

WOMAN 1: 5:00 in the morning.

WOMAN 4: Shut up. We usually stay like 4:30, to like 4:30.

REPORTER: How old are you?

WOMAN 4: We're 18.

WOMAN 1: I'm 19.

MAN: Really? My name's George. Pleased to meet you, girls.

Alcohol-fuelled violence is on the rise and much of it, according to new surveys, happens in and around late night hotels. The Beach Palace Hotel in Coogee, another Sydney beachside suburb, is one of them.

MAN: Yeah, yeah. Fuck that shit. Four, five, six, seven motherfuckers out here. Watch me fuck their shit. Yeah. A fucking machine, I'm a machine built for killing. I don't get treated like a fucking piece of shit. I spend over 150 fucking dollars in advance. Beat this little pussy ass fucking Lebo motherfuckers out there.

So is Australia's dream of creating modern 24-hour cities turning sour? Alcohol is central to a thriving night-time economy but with binge drinking a national pastime, it's all a far cry from late night continental Europe.

REPORTER: So how much would you normally drink on a night out?


WOMAN 3: No comment.

REPORTER: On an average night?

WOMAN 2: Maybe like 10, 10 drinks.

WOMAN 3: I generally lose count. If you can't remember, then you say five.

REPORTER: What do you girls drink?

WOMAN 1 and 2: Vodka and Red Bull. Vodka.

REPORTER: How many a night?

WOMAN 1: A lot. Around 10? Probably about 10. But we drink before we come here as well.

And our drinking culture encourages everyone to drink, even those who don't really want to.

MAN: I think I tried to give up for about four months and, you know, I started, I started really drinking again when I went out with my parents, actually, to dinner, you know, having a few glasses then, and ever since then I thought, you know, whatever. The fact is that it's really, really difficult to be a non-drinker.

REPORTER: Because it's everywhere?

MAN: Pretty much. In Australia it is anyway. I mean, I don't necessarily knock that at all but it's definitely borderline impossible to stop drinking in Australia.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well, welcome, everyone. Thanks very much for joining us. Steve Quinlan, you're the licensee of Manly's Steyne Hotel, which we just saw earlier in that story. Now, you're one of nearly 600 publicans around the country who've been issued with 24-hour licences. 444 of those licences, by the way, are in NSW. Tell me why you think they're a good idea? Why do you think it's a good idea to be able to drink 24/7?

STEVE QUINLAN: I guess speaking for the Steyne and for Manly, if the hotel's actually there's a large number of patrons, as Mayor Macdonald was saying, and we do need to spread out the time that they're there. We don't want to put everyone out on the street at midnight or 1:00 or 2:00 or whatever.

JENNY BROCKIE: But if you put them out at 6:00, they've been drinking for longer, some of them have.

STEVE QUINLAN: I mean, drinking longer is not necessarily a bad thing, because it's rather that than have you know, you've got two hours to drink it in. By 6:00 there's very few people left, the drinking slows down, you know, they're not.. Because you're there longer doesn't mean to say that you actually drink more.

JENNY BROCKIE: Bill Healey, you're the director of Australian Hotels Association. Why do you think 24-hour licences are a good idea?

BILL HEALEY, AUSTRALIAN HOTELS ASSOCIATION: Well, at the end of the day they're a good idea in those precincts where people have customers that want to go to our venues during that time. I mean, you've pointed out there's 600 out of around 7,000 hotels, and there are also clubs around the country that are trading. So only a small percentage of people in very defined precincts are open to that time of night. But ultimately in some ways, we do know that if you close at a set time, you pour a lot of people out on the street, you tax the transport systems of those communities – and that is quite often the cause of problems – so by spreading out your departures you can actually mitigate against problems. The other point, and if we are going to focus on alcohol in this country, 70% of alcohol consumed in Australia today is consumed away from licensed premise.

JENNY BROCKIE: NowWHERE do you get those figures from?

BILL HEALEY: Those figures are based on numbers and sales figures. I mean, generally far more alcohol today is consumed in the home and in other places away from licensed premises.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you don't think hotels are the problem?

BILL HEALEY: Well, we acknowledge that in some precincts a large concentration of people who are partying and who are up late at night and maybe have had too much to drink or maybe also taken some other substances, become hard to control. But what we're saying is that if you're going to look at the alcohol problem in this country, you shouldn't just focus on late night trading. It's a much more complex issue and it really goes to the heart of the acceptance of intoxication.

JENNY BROCKIE: George Newhouse, you're mayor of Waverley in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. Does having longer hours help the way the hotel industry is suggesting? Does it help spread out people's drinking and therefore make it less of a problem?

GEORGE NEWHOUSE, MAYOR OF WAVERLEY: Well, that's not what we see. The longer people drink the more violence we see in the early hours of the morning. And the evidence is that in Bondi, for example, when we try and shut down the shops outside of the 24-hour pubs, people actually do move on and they move on with a minimum of violence. They end up down at Coogee, which has all-night trading and that's where the problems occur. So I dispute the argument from the hotels that longer hours means less violence. In fact it's quite the opposite.

JENNY BROCKIE: So why are so many of these licences being issued then? Why is there this push? Is it about creating more vibrant cities, about being more sophisticated cities like we see in Europe?

GEORGE NEWHOUSE: I don't think there's anything sophisticated about what you just saw down at Coogee. It's about making money. And the system tends to be weighted towards the hoteliers and against the community.

JENNY BROCKIE: Tanya, I'd like to broaden this out a bit because we're talking quite a bit about NSW here, and that's obviously where a lot of these licences, the bulk of these licences are. But you're from Western Australia and you've spent six years looking at the effects of longer trading hours. What have you found?

DR TANYA CHIKRITZHS, NATIONAL DRUG RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, I'm from Western Australia but I have a very national perspective because I work at the National Drug Research Institute. But essentially we looked at what happened in Perth when hotels were allowed were given access to extended trading permits which allowed them about one to two hours extra trading after midnight, which is the standard closing time. Now, the period we looked at was from 1991 to 1997. And we had two very excellent sources of information – we had wholesale alcohol purchase information and all sorts of details that we needed on hotels from the Liquor Licensing Department, and we also had reports of violent assaults, reported by the police. And from that we were able to identify where an assault occurred and to specifically locate it to a particular hotel and name that hotel. The levels of violent assaults in and around their premises increased by 70% on average, and that's over and above the increases that were occurring among the normally or the standard hours trading premises.

JENNY BROCKIE: So there were hot spots?

DR TANYA CHIKRITZHS: Well, yes, there are definitely hot spots.

JENNY BROCKIE: For violence?

DR TANYA CHIKRITZHS: For violence, there's no doubt about that. And I think it's important to recognise that not all hotels are interested in trading for 24 hours or for extended trading hours. It has to be primarily in a business interest in their business interest to do so.

JENNY BROCKIE: Superintendent Frank Hansen, you're in charge of drug and alcohol issues for the NSW Police. Does your experience echo what Tanya's saying in terms of what you're finding and what the police are finding in NSW?

SUPT FRANK HANSEN, NSW POLICE: Yeah, sure. I mean, the relationship between alcohol use and particularly violence and street offences is there is no doubt about that, and the consequences of extended trading means that there are greater increase… a significant increase in offending behaviour around licensed premises. We're able to track people who have come under notice by the police, either as an offender or as a victim, and about 25% of those people have been drinking in licensed premises immediately before the incident.

JENNY BROCKIE: Lee Gilmour, you're a magistrate in this Eastern Suburbs area of Sydney we've been talking about a bit tonight. It covers some of those beach hotels that we saw. How big a feature is alcohol in your court?

LEE GILMOUR, LOCAL COURT MAGISTRATE: It's a huge feature. It would be a good 70% to 80% of the crimes that I see come through the court are alcohol-related. And what you saw is something that we see most Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Waverley Local Court as a result of incidents such as that, in particularly those two hotels that you saw. I don't target them, it's just a fact – that's where the violence is occurring.

JENNY BROCKIE: And is there a pattern to the time the offences occur? Because I'm interested in getting back to this, just around the debate of whether being able to drink these long hours is a good or bad idea.

LEE GILMOUR: Yes, there is a pattern. You find in the facts that come before the court many of the young people don't hit the hotels until about 11:00 at night. Where they've been until then I'm not too sure but usually the facts will start off with, “He arrived at the hotel at 11:00 at night.” The material that comes before the court does indicate to me that between midnight and 3:00 is the time where things seem to get very volatile.

JENNY BROCKIE: So what do you think of the idea of 24-hour licences, as a magistrate?

LEE GILMOUR: I can only speak for myself, of course, I don't speak for others, but I don't approve of it. I see no reason why people need to be in licensed premises beyond midnight. They've got homes to go to, presumably jobs to do the next day. I think, as you indicated in your introduction, the consumption of alcohol has a lot to do to explaining sickness, performance at work, things like that. And I see no reason whatsoever why any hotel needs to be open between 12:00 midnight and 6am.


BILL HEALEY: Most of the hotels that are opening those late hours, as we've heard earlier, are on Friday and Saturday nights when people are ending up at the end of the week, we don't see it tend to happen right across the working week.

JENNY BROCKIE: But the points that are being raised here are about more serious things. I mean, you've got a police officer worried about violence at that time, you've got a magistrate saying she's worried about violence as well. You've got a researcher saying there's a correlation in terms of the hours and the offences occurring in relation to these late night premises. And we haven't even talked to the health people yet.

BILL HEALEY: I come back to the issue about 24/7 worlds that we live in now in entertainment. There are a number of people who you saw in those licensed premises who were having a good night out and were enjoying themselves and weren't intoxicated and weren't a problem. We did see some instances of people who are intoxicated and create social problems. The bigger issue, the bigger issue for this community is the acceptance of intoxication. And the point that I made earlier about total alcohol – a lot of the problems you're going to talk about later are not happening on a Saturday or a Friday night, they're happening in people's homes every day of the week. And so I think the focus on late night trading really takes the real pressure off the issue in our society which is a culture that accepts intoxication.

JENNY BROCKIE: We're going to talk even… not even about intoxication later, just about health risks that don't involve intoxication. Ian Webster, before we do, you're the chief alcohol adviser to the NSW Government and you're calling for a ban on 24-hour traders. Do you want them all shut down? What do you want to see happen?

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER, ALCOHOL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION FOUNDATION: Well, I certainly don't think that we should increase the numbers and the evidence shows right across the world – in England, Perth, here in Sydney – that where you've got 24-hour opening of hotels, extended hours, and particularly when they're concentrated in particular areas where people come into those areas, you have enormous amount of injury. We've been talking about what happens on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night and early Sunday morning in the public hospitals when the emergency departments become crowded out. You've just got to go there to see the extent of trauma and injury. And it is a problem of intoxication, it is a problem of people being out of control. So I think there certainly shouldn't be any new licences issued, in my opinion, and I'd certainly review very closely those that exist and look at the patterns in terms of injury and harm that are occurring in those communities and of course to the individuals. I'd go to the local public hospital and find out what's happening there, St Vincent's, for example, in the centre of Sydney, Liverpool out in south-west Sydney.

JENNY BROCKIE: Steve Quinlan, your response to all the problems Ian's talking about.

STEVE QUINLAN: I guess we keep saying it's the hotels. People go to restaurants, they drink at home, you know. And as Bill was saying, majority, probably 95% of patrons who go to our premises drink responsibly and behave. It's a very small element that don't. I think it needs to be understood that hotels don't go out there to get people drunk. It's not in our best interests.

JENNY BROCKIE: But you're out to make money and the more people drink the more money you make.

STEVE QUINLAN: No, not at all, not at all.

JENNY BROCKIE: You're not out to make money?

STEVE QUINLAN: More responsible drinkers are better revenue than a smaller amounts of people getting on it. A hotel needs to be a safe, comfortable environment so it's having more responsible people. There's definitely no mileage in having, you know, getting people just trucking through the drinks. So I disagree with that completely.


PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: Jenny, could I just comment on that? We don't have the studies in Australia but there was a study done in the United States which showed that the alcohol industry as a whole earns up to 40% of its income from those who are under-age drinkers – the under-age are slightly different in the United States, it's a higher level – but also drinkers who are using it inappropriately, drinkers at risk. So in many ways a lot of the income for the alcohol industry is actually coming from harmful drinking. And it's estimated that something like 80% of the alcohol which is bought and sold in Australia is bought and sold by people who at that time are drinking at a high risk way.

JENNY BROCKIE: In a moment we're going to look at what's happening in other States. And we'll settle once and for all just how much alcohol is safe to drink. You might be surprised by that. And hospital emergency departments in most States of Australia are reporting a growing number of women and teenagers admitted with alcohol overdoses. Here's Amanda Collinge.


REPORTER: Amanda Collinge

REPORTER: What do you drink?

MAN: Jim Beam.

It's Saturday night in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. It's past midnight and as usual there are plenty of 13- and 14-year-olds out on the street drinking.

REPORTER: So how old are you?

GIRL: 13.

REPORTER: And what kind of things do you do on a weekend?

GIRL: We go to raves, drink.

GIRL 2: Just drink till really confident, you know what I'm saying. Yeah, but not sick.

REPORTER: How old were you guys when you started drinking?

GIRL: About 12, 11.

GIRL: 12.

WOMAN: We go along Tamarama, Bronte Beach.

The Point Zero van is here too. They're on the streets each weekend to help underage drinkers. Tonight they're mainly dispensing food and at times condoms.

REPORTER: What kind of things are you drinking?

GIRL: Jimmy, Woodstock, UDLs, just mainly that.

REPORTER: And how much do you drink?

GIRL: We drink till we're drunk, pretty much.

REPORTER: How do you get it?

GIRL: Off our parents or we get randoms to ask. And Luke's favourite drink is tequila.

REBECCA HOLDMAN, POINT ZERO: Older friends, older siblings, parent's alcohol cabinets. Some of them actually look older than they are and aren't asked for ID so they can purchase it themselves as well.

Rebecca Holdman is a youth worker with Point Zero. She's seen a few teenagers overdose on alcohol, and often it's after drinking spirits.

REBECCA HOLDMAN: One young male had – I think he was approximately 15 years of age – he had consumed an entire bottle of vodka and was passed out. Another young man had been drinking heavily and had fallen and split his head.

REPORTER: What kind of things do you drink?

BOY: Jimmy.

REPORTER: How much?

BOY: Till it's gone.

JENNY BROCKIE: Stephanie, you're from Point Zero as well, which we saw in that story. How much money do these kids have? And how much are they drinking? I mean, we heard about the bottle of vodka. What sort of quantities are we talking about kids drinking at 12 and 13?

STEPHANIE LENGA, POINT ZERO YOUTH SERVICES: In terms of the money, I guess it depends on, obviously, their background but particularly I guess in the Eastern Suburbs or the more affluent suburbs kids are being given quite a substantial amount of money, sometimes $50 or $100 for the night, parents not asking where it's gone. So that's a lot of money to be able to spend on alcohol and other drugs.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how much are they drinking?

STEPHANIE LENGA: In terms of how much they're drinking, yeah, as Rebecca said, it can be a whole bottle of vodka. We've seen them carrying around wine caskets and drinking the whole thing. So obviously they're sharing it but they're reaching a point where they're passing out and needing to go to the hospital.

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you think it's any different to the way it's always been, what's happening at the moment?

STEPHANIE LENGA: I think that kids are drinking younger, that's what happening. They're starting a lot younger. As the video showed, they're starting 12, 13. And that's a problem. In terms of how much they're drinking, I don't think that that's changed.

JENNY BROCKIE: Bruce, I'd like to thank you very much for joining us tonight. You lost your teenage son some years ago now in Melbourne after he drank particularly strong alcohol at a friend's house. What was it and how did he get it?

BRUCE CLARK: It was something called imitation vodka essence. We believe it was approximately 70% by volume in alcohol. It's now off the market. But a 375ml bottle at the time cost $5 because it was considered a food additive and therefore wasn't taxed.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how old was your son?

BRUCE CLARK: Lee was 15.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what happened?

BRUCE CLARK: He was on his way to an alcohol-free concert that our local council was sponsoring. Apparently because of the weather his friends he was intending to meet didn't turn up and he met up with some other boys that he knew from school who had this stuff back at the house. And he went back with them.

JENNY BROCKIE: And he was only drinking for a really short time, wasn't he?

BRUCE CLARK: They were apparently there for about half an hour. And they left there, went back to McDonald's. Most of group were in a pretty bad state and they were asked to leave. They were hanging around the front of McDonald's. Lee couldn't… he could barely stand up, he was falling over in puddles of mud. It was a very wet, cold night, middle of August. And the majority of the group announced that they were still intending to go to the dance and Lee said, “Look, I'm not well, I want to go home.” So he left. They left him to walk home alone.

JENNY BROCKIE: And he took a short cut.

BRUCE CLARK: He took a short cut behind our local shopping centre, got roughly 300m from where he was last seen and collapsed in the paddock.

JENNY BROCKIE: And was found what, a day and a half later?

BRUCE CLARK: A day and a half later, Sunday afternoon.

JENNY BROCKIE: How did they get this alcohol in the first place?

BRUCE CLARK: It was bought by the mother of one of his friends.

JENNY BROCKIE: Gosh. And what happened to the mother as a result of this?

BRUCE CLARK: She was charged with supplying alcohol to minors, the two boys, and she was subsequently fined $200 in the Bacchus Marsh Magistrates Court.

JENNY BROCKIE: How did you feel about all of that? About that whole..

BRUCE CLARK: Well, there's a lot of issues around this. And one thing on the alcohol itself, it was unlabelled and it was labelled as an imitation, so in some aspect, although she knew she was buying alcohol, she didn't know what she had. Secondly, she supplied alcohol to two kids, not her own children, to two other kids, they were 15 years old, Lee's mates. Why she felt that was OK, I just do not know and I just still don't understand it. It's destroyed a lot of my faith in the trust you place in other parents.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how do you feel when you hear discussions about alcohol and look at those teenagers?

BRUCE CLARK: I just see those kids out there and yeah, it just burns. It really hurts. But the thing that I really want to get across is no-one was charged with supplying alcohol to my son. They can't be charged in Victoria because he obtained that alcohol in a private house. So in Victoria, then and still, it is legal to supply, effectively, a lethal dose of alcohol to anyone else's child in a house.

JENNY BROCKIE: And you'd like to see that change?

BRUCE CLARK: We've been campaigning since 1999 and getting absolutely nowhere with our State Government.

JENNY BROCKIE: Gordon Broderick, you're from the Spirits Industry Council. A lot of the young kids are drinking spirits, as we've heard. We've heard about vodka and we hear about all sorts of other premixed drinks, a lot of which taste like lolly water, frankly. Isn't that giving young kids a taste for spirits?

GORDON BRODERICK, DISTILLED SPIRITS INDUSTRY OF AUSTRALIA: No, I don't think so. I mean, premixed spirits have been around for 30 years. The incidence of them, the consumption has increased considerably in the last couple of years from a very small base. They're not creating new drinkers, what we're doing taking from existing spirit drinkers, or from beer drinkers. And a lot of people…

JENNY BROCKIE: How can you say you're not creating new drinkers? I mean, these kids start drinking things like Passion Pop and stuff, they're not existing drinkers.

GORDON BRODERICK: They were drinking something else before. The National Drug Household survey, which surveys 20,000 homes every three years, show that the incidents of young people drinking – and they're not taking it up at an earlier age and they're not drinking at any more than they were over the last 15 years.

JENNY BROCKIE: But they're drinking at very risky levels. I mean, we hear story after story about these kids drinking large amounts of alcohol, large amounts of vodka, large amounts of mixed drinks.

GORDON BRODERICK: Yes, and that's absolutely extraordinary. They must go home intoxicated. What must their parents be saying when they come home in that state or when they don't wake up the next morning? I can't conceive how anybody can drink a bottle of vodka.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you feel no sense of responsibility about the fact that they're drinking the premixed drinks a lot that your industry supplies and creates?

GORDON BRODERICK: They're not drinking them any more than any other beverage. I don't see the beverage as a problem.

JENNY BROCKIE: Tanya, you wanted to say something?

DR TANYA CHIKRITZHS: The most recent Australian secondary school survey of alcohol, that's 2005, showed that in actual fact among 12- to 15-year-old children – this is a survey of schoolchildren, it doesn't include those who aren't in school at 15 – but among those schoolchildren, the proportion of current drinkers who drink at risky and high-risk levels is higher than ever, and that what they're drinking has changed. And what they're drinking, their drink of preference now is premixed beverages. So they're increasing the amount they're consuming and they've swapped to premixed beverages.


GORDON BRODERICK: The fact that they're drinking premixed spirits, there's no more alcohol in a can of bourbon and cola or a vodka premix than there is in a can of beer or in a wine sparkling… small sparkling wine.

JENNY BROCKIE: But it tastes a lot less like alcohol.

GORDON BRODERICK: Well, I remember when I was growing up we used to mix our own. We'd buy vodka and a flagon of orange juice. And that's much more dangerous because people were putting more alcohol in. With the premixed spirit, at least you're getting a measured nip of spirits.

JENNY BROCKIE: Geoff Munro, you lobby for tougher regulation of the industry that Gordon's part of. Is he right when he says that premixed drinks in regulated amounts are better than kids mixing their own?

GEOFF MUNRO, COMMUNITY ALCOHOL ACTION NETWORK: I have to disagree with Mr Broderick because the new generation of premixed drinks, what we call super strength drinks, contain up to 2.7 drinks in a single can, and that's particularly bourbon and cola. And we heard from the girls you interviewed earlier that they're drinking Woodies, which one is one of those brands. No adult, I don't think, is going to buy a can of drink that contains nearly three standard drinks in it when the police tell us we should be drinking no more than one standard drink in an hour. Now, those cans seem to be designed to cater to the people who want to get off their face as fast as possible. And the industry is responsible for producing those products and it just refuses to accept responsibility for the results. The results are quite predictable, we've seen them tonight.

JENNY BROCKIE: Steve Quinlan, I know you've banned drinks called Jaeger Bombs in your hotel. Now, why have you banned that particular drink? And tell us what it is.

STEVE QUINLAN: I guess I was agreeing with the gentleman over here. That drink was designed to be drunk quickly. It's a mix of a liqueur and an energy drink so, you know, it's kind of an up and down in the one glass, if you like. But we saw increased bad behaviour

JENNY BROCKIE: Around that particular drink?

STEVE QUINLAN: We did an analysis on a time frame. We just went, “Well, OK, between this time and this time, things seem to get a little bit sort of untidy,” so we had a look at the sales and these Jaeger Bombs were quite prevalent in, you know, that time period. And I just decided, going back to my earlier argument in that we don't want them to be there for two hours and, you know, drink as many drinks as they can. We like them to spread out the experience and we can control the behaviour better. And so we just took the step to ban them.

JENNY BROCKIE: Let's talk a little bit about how much people drink. Maria and Julie Kendall, you're from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. How much do you drink on a night out?

MARIA KENDALL: Probably about 10 or 12 drinks maybe.

JENNY BROCKIE: What sort of drinks? 10 or 12 a night?

MARIA KENDALL: Generally it would be vodka and orange.

JENNY BROCKIE: 10 or 12 vodkas a night? And how much would you spend on alcohol?

JULIE KENDALL: I spend about half my pay on alcohol just because it's a culture where I live. I live in Kalgoorlie but I work in Leonora, there's nothing else there.

JENNY BROCKIE: So how often would you drink that much in a week?

JULIE KENDALL: Probably twice a week I drink that much and then I drink throughout the week two or three other nights.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how much would you drink on those other nights?

JULIE KENDALL: Two, three, four, five, anywhere there. Depends on, you know, what's happening.

JENNY BROCKIE: And do the boys drink as much as that? As much as the girls?

MARIA KENDALL: No, not generally, no.

JENNY BROCKIE: Why is that? I'm just interested in why the girls drink so much.

MARIA KENDALL: Pass. You would have to ask boys why they can't keep up with us. Honestly I don't know.

JULIE KENDALL: I suppose a lot of it could be that I don't actually pay for all of my drinks. You know, like I'll drink some that I pay for and other times people will buy me a drink, so they'll buy themselves one and me one – there's an extra drink. You know, like so that could add to it, I suppose.

JENNY BROCKIE: How much do other people here drink? And I'd like you to be honest about this. I wonder how much Shane? Where's Shane? How much do you drink, Shane?

SHANE DEWER: Well, in a night I can drink in excess of 20 drinks, in a night.

JENNY BROCKIE: What would they be, those 20?

SHANE DEWER: Beers, most of time.

JENNY BROCKIE: 20 beers in a night?

SHANE DEWER: Yeah, yeah. Over a long period of time, starting in the early afternoon and, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: How often would you do that?

SHANE DEWER: Maybe once a fortnight I'd do that, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: And the rest of the time?

SHANE DEWER: I don't really drink during the week at all.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you're a binger?

SHANE DEWER: Yeah, yeah, just when I get the opportunity to.

JENNY BROCKIE: Sharyn, what about you? How much do you drink?

SHARYN KRUGER: Generally if I just go to a pub or something like that, it will just be a couple of glasses of wine, but if I go out for a big night, it could be up to 10 drinks.

JENNY BROCKIE: Up to 10? There's a consistent pattern emerging here, with the girls especially, around 10. Duane, what about you?

DUANE CAREY: On an average night if I'm going out with friends socially, maybe about six beers. On a bigger night I might have up to about 12, that's schooners of beer. But I find for me that it doesn't matter how long I'm out, once I've hit about 12 beers that's saturation point so I pretty much level out from there.

JENNY BROCKIE: I'm not surprised! 12 beers. That's saturation point?

BILL HEALEY: I think you've got to realise that in terms of per capita consumption of alcohol, Australia drinks less today than what we did in the '80s. So while we may be drinking in more concentrated sittings, in actual fact we consume less per capita today than we did 25 years ago. And we've actually increased or improved our position relative to other countries.

JENNY BROCKIE: OK, this is not an improved picture, I'm feeling, in this room right now, though, in terms of the amount we're drinking and the recommended amounts. Ian Webster, I'd like you to tell us once and for all what is the safe level of drinking for men and for women.

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: Well, if the people who have already spoken about their drinking patterns came to me, I'd be very alarmed, But for someone who's drinking quite regularly, we would say for a woman that two standard drinks per day is low risk and as soon as you start getting above that you start increasing the risks to your body and to your mind and to your brain. In men, we would say four standard drinks a day for those who are drinking regularly. And even under those circumstances, we would say to those people you should have at least one alcohol-free day a week.

JENNY BROCKIE: Now, standard drinks, this is what interests me and this is what interested our whole office when we started looking into it. Hold up that wine glass and show us what a standard drink is. Can you hold it up?

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: That's a standard drink.

JENNY BROCKIE: So that's a standard glass of wine? So two of those for a woman a day?

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: Yes, that's 100ml of wine. Of course it would be different with fortified wines, a smaller volume, and for spirits and of course for the regular glass of beer that's normally served, that's on average one standard drink.

JENNY BROCKIE: Can I get you to pour that 100ml of wine into that bigger glass there, which is a glass that a lot of people might be a little more familiar with than the baby one we've had a look at? Can you just pour?

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: So that's the one at home or in the restaurant and this is 100 ml of red wine. Hardly touches the sides.

JENNY BROCKIE: Hold it up for us. So that, everybody, is a standard drink. And a woman can have two of those and a man can have four.

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: The idea of standard drinks is a very important idea. We can make a judgment about the risky drinking just from the volume that they're drinking. And of course we can talk to people about riskier driving. If you drink six standard drinks within a 2-hour period, you're very likely to have a blood alcohol level above the 0.5…0.05, it will be 0.08. So if the people who are presenting here tonight about their drinking patterns, they certainly couldn't drive home and they certainly would be at risk for other perhaps precipitous events that they might get involved in.

JENNY BROCKIE: Can I point out to people at home, by the way, that we didn't choose this audience because they all drank 10 standard drinks. They are actually a cross-section of the community that we've chosen. We just happened to ask everyone how much they drank. And what I want to ask you now, all of you, is a show of hands for how many people have an alcohol-free day a week? OK, well that's a good thing. Gordon, you put your hand up, I'm surprised. I'm surprised. Do you have an alcohol-free day every week?

GORDON BRODERICK: Mostly because I have to drive somewhere so I don't drink when I'm driving.

JENNY BROCKIE: John Crozier, you're a trauma surgeon. Have you seen any changes since 24-hour licensing has become more common, or have you seen any patterns at all that you're alarmed by?

DR JOHN CROZIER, TRAUMA SURGEON: Jenny, over many years in many of the States in Australia, as a medical student all the way through to current practising trauma surgeon, I've been concerned, I guess, with the frequency with which alcohol will be a part of somebody who's injured presenting to the hospital. In the acute presentation, we frequently aren't asking the question, “Have you been drinking? When did you start? When did you stop? And where did you last drink?” So we actually across Australia don't get as clear a snapshot of what is really going on as Tanya's information. Nevertheless, the consistent message is that with a lot of injury, there is a significant relationship with alcohol.

JENNY BROCKIE: In a moment we're going to look at the influence of the alcohol industry and how we can best deal with the growing problems of alcohol abuse. Now, I'd like to talk a little bit about alcohol advertising at this point. Gordon Broderick, the alcohol industry often talks about being responsible and the need to be responsible, and you sit on the Alcohol Advertising Standards Board. There are clear guidelines about linking alcohol to sexual or social success in the advertising and targeting alcohol ads at children. Can you explain to us what you're not allowed to do in advertising for alcohol, or not supposed to do.

GORDON BRODERICK: There are about 10 different clauses, Jenny, ranging from showing people engaged in driving, water sports or in any hazardous activity. You're not allowed to show them drinking under those circumstances. You're not allowed to show that consumption of alcohol leads the sexual business or social success.

JENNY BROCKIE: Let's have a look at a couple of ads. I'd like to have a look at this one first. This is an ad for James Boag's beer. No link to sex there?

GORDON BRODERICK: Well, it depends on how you want to talk about that, quite seriously because, you may well snigger, but that advertisement was subject to a complaint that Geoff Munro lodged and it was adjudicated by the adjudication panel – which is headed up by the Honourable Professor Michael Lavarch who's a former Australian attorney-general.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what did they find about that ad, given that alcohol isn't supposed to be linked to sexual success?

GORDON BRODERICK: What they found is the person – There is no indication of sexual success there. There's no… the person's not shown consuming alcohol, there's no other person in the advertisement.

JENNY BROCKIE: She's got a glass in her hand.

GORDON BRODERICK: With respect, Jenny, I'm just telling you what the independent panel found.

JENNY BROCKIE: Is that sexual failure, is it?

GORDON BRODERICK: The code doesn't prohibit the use of sex, you can be sexy in an advertisement. It's a prohibition of showing that the consumption of alcohol leads to sexual success.

JENNY BROCKIE: Alright, let's look at another ad. This is, I think, an ad for Tooheys. No appeal to children there?

GORDON BRODERICK: My comments on that would be inappropriate because that matter has been complained that ad's been complained against in the last 20 days and adjudication hasn't been handed down yet.

JENNY BROCKIE: So it is being looked at?


JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think about this, Geoff?

GEOFF MUNRO: I think this particular ad looks as though it's been filmed in Toyland. And it's an extraordinary advertisement from an industry that says it will not promote alcohol to young people. I cannot believe that that ad won't appeal to young people. I think it will attract them and it will brand the product in young people's minds and their consciousness.

JENNY BROCKIE: Bill Healey, according to an analysis of the Electoral Commission's figures, in the seven years up to 2005 in NSW alone, the hotel industry gave just under $3 million to the ALP. What do you get back for giving that kind of money to a political party? What does the industry get?

BILL HEALEY: Well, I suppose we give political donations to both sides of politics because that actually gives you the ability to discuss issues of relevance to them. In relation to NSW, during that period there's been the introduction of gaming. There's been the introduction of zoning arrangements in relation to developments in the tourism sector. There's been a whole lot of issues in relation to the regulation of food standards and alcohol.

JENNY BROCKIE: So it buys you influence on issues? That's what you're suggesting.

BILL HEALEY: Well, I think the issue about why people make contributions to political parties means that…it does mean that you can discuss issues of concern with them, whether that's influential or not. I mean in NSW in particular we have ICAC so the level of influence you can have is quite limited.

JENNY BROCKIE: But you can't talk to them without giving them money?

BILL HEALEY: It's an issue of access. It varies from major companies also provide money. I mean some of that is in relation to dinners, it's in relation to major conferences. We recently attended the Labor Party conference as well as we'll be attending the Liberal Party conference. So it's a common practice for a lot of business groups to make contributions to political parties because it does provide access to discuss issues of relevance. Whether that buys influence or not, that's another question. Certainly from our point of view it's primarily focused on access.


GEOFF MUNRO: I think the program is entitled Under the Influence and we're sitting here wondering why the industry is allowed to produce those super strength drinks knowing that young people favour them, knowing the damage they're doing. We're wondering why the alcohol industry is allowed to regulate its own advertising. We've seen the result there. I think our politicians must be under the influence of the industry because they are just not taking notice of anything that we're saying.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well, I would actually like to point out that we did very much want to have a government representative here tonight. We invited the NSW Premier and four of his ministers given that NSW has more of these licences than any other State, as well as two other State Labor ministers to join us on Insight tonight. None of them would come on the program. Ian Webster, I know that you support a proposal to ban political donations from the liquor industry. Why?

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: Well, I belong to non-government organisations – the Ted Knoff Foundation, the Alcohol and Drug Council and some other groups. We don't have any money which we can use to pay for influence or access to politicians. We're a bit like David fighting Goliath. When there's a powerful industry with lots of money, lots of access involving alcohol, clubs and hotels and gambling, it's a very powerful influence. And I think as a general principle in a civil society, we should be looking very carefully at political donations and I think we obviously should make them public, like they do in the United States. And I'm very concerned about the access that money buys to political influence.

BILL HEALEY: Can I respond to that? Because I've run two industry associations, one the retail industry and one the hotel industry. I had just as much access when I was running the retailers because both industries employ a large number of people, we're critical commercial activities in regional towns. So we'd have the access because of the nature of our business and the contribution our business has made to community.

JENNY BROCKIE: So why spend $3 million then?

BILL HEALEY: That's an issue for the branches. I mean, I have to say that you keep coming back to 24-hour trading and saying that this is a problem with abuse of alcohol when we've already seen large number of underage drinkers who are getting their alcohol through their parents and you're blaming the hotel sector when this is a much deeper community problem. And I think the..

JENNY BROCKIE: I don't think anyone doubts, Bill, that it's a deeper community problem and that the issue with alcohol goes far greater than hotels but there is certainly enough suggestions from people who have done work in this area that there is a connection between incidences of violence and longer trading hours for it to warrant discussion. Ian, just a quick comment from you, we're going to have to wrap up.

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: It is about our culture of alcohol. And I've looked very carefully at all the budgets of State governments, of federal governments over many years and the word 'alcohol' virtually never appears as a masthead of any program. They'll invest in suicide prevention – most appropriate – they'll invest in a drug strategy but they'll be very proud to say they're dealing with this illicit drug or that illicit drug – and fortunately tobacco got up there – but alcohol hardly ever appears as a masthead of any government commitment. So we must ask a question as to why this is happening. It seems to me that governments in a sense are denying the problem in our society. It's a major social, major medical harm that's occurring in our country and it just hardly gets the headlines in government circles.

JENNY BROCKIE: George Newhouse, you're a member of the Labor Party. You're running against Malcolm Turnbull, I think, in the Federal seat of Wentworth. Will you be taking money from the local alcohol industry or from the alcohol industry for your campaign given your concerns about what's happening in your area?

GEORGE NEWHOUSE: I haven't taken any money from anyone at this stage and I don't plan on taking any from the hotel industry.

JENNY BROCKIE: OK, and what do you think of the idea of political donations from the hotel industry? Is it a good or a bad idea? Your own party takes them.

GEORGE NEWHOUSE: I'm not responsible for the party's policies but I will say this, the hotel industry has a weight of resources behind what they're doing and when we as local councils see them in court, they've always got a bevy of barristers, they've got QCs. The whole system does seem to be weighted in their favour. I'm not suggesting it's for one reason or another but the fact is there's profit to be made, there's a lot of money at stake and the community does seem to suffer and come off second best.

JENNY BROCKIE: Gordon, what do you think the industry could be doing that it isn't doing now?

GORDON BRODERICK: Well, the industry's recently taken a step to fund DrinkWise Australia and we've put agreed to put in $10 million a year for the next five years to establish this independent body to look at how we can change the drinking culture in Australia. What we have to do is make being intoxicated as socially unacceptable as drink driving.


GEOFF MUNRO: Jenny, the industry doesn't have to fund DrinkWise. All it has to do is advertise appropriately. It's already spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year advertising its product. Why not simply advertise in a way that promotes responsible drinking, which is what the industry says it wants to do.

JENNY BROCKIE: Final comment from you.

BILL HEALEY: Well, firstly I don't think you've established just how regulated our industry is, particularly at the retail side. We've got very strong penalties if you sell to people under the age of 18, we've got regulation to prohibit us serving intoxicated people and it's already a restricted product. I mean, you just can't open up a retail outlet and sell alcohol.

JENNY BROCKIE: Has a pub ever had its licence taken away?

BILL HEALEY: There have been instances where pubs have been forced to shut for three or four days as a result of not complying with their licences, yes.

JENNY BROCKIE: Three or four days.

BILL HEALEY: In certain circumstances. But generally most of our.. I think most of our hotels regularly attempt to do what they have to do. So we recognise we've got to be part of the solution but the broader problem is as a community that accepts intoxication, and that's the biggest challenge we've got.

JENNY BROCKIE: Ian, a final comment from you?

PROFESSOR IAN WEBSTER: Clearly I think what we're all saying is we've got to change our relationship as a society with alcohol, change the way we drink. And I agree the idea of being safe and drinking responsibly and being concerned about intoxication is at the top of the list but it's only at the top of the list. There are many other issues we have to deal with.

JENNY BROCKIE: And probably many other programs we could do around those issues too. Thank you all very much for joining Insight tonight. Great to have you here.

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